A Wolf’s Résistance by T.J. Nichols (review)

Tagline: Loup-garou in the French resistance flees to an isolated blacksmith, where the forge may burn hot in a sizzling and scarring manner…

Wolf's Resistance Book Cover Image

Title: A Wolf’s Résistance 
Author: T.J. Nichols
Genre:  Historical Paranormal M/M Romance
Format:  Novella (15k words, 47 pages)

Series: Walk on Wild Side

Publisher: Dreamspinner (June 2016)

ISBN: 978-1-63477-487-1

Also available:  Walk on Wild Side Anthology

Rating:   star1 star1 star1 star1  half-star (I loved it!)

Dreamspinner’s 2016 Daily Dose anthology includes 30 romantic male/male shifter stories released one a day during the month of June.

Note on rating: This story might be a little dark for some romance readers, but its depiction of gay men living in an especially hostile, pre-sexual revolution/LGBT-rights movement world very much resonated as truthful, accurate, and in the end intensely intriguing to me.

Synopsis: As a loup-garou, Renny was valuable to the French Resistance, but was also identified by the Germans and their French collaborators as especially dangerous and physically branded as such. Unable to return to his pack due to his proclivities, upon escaping and fleeing his captors, he heads for a small town.  Stumbling upon a blacksmith’s cottage on the edge of town, his wolf can’t keep his attention away from a coup of delicious chickens.  As with all living in occupied France, Marc struggles to make ends meet, perhaps even more than most given his physical handicap and his unnatural attractions.  A wolf menacing his chickens is something he cannot risk, and he’s a good shot with his rifle.

Review: I put off reading this story, as the description intimated it might be rather dark.  I have studied Vichy France and suspected this might not be a pleasant tale.  While it certainly was not a light, sweet romantic story, and it might be a bit too dark for some romance readers, it was absolutely perfect for me.  In part, I think I related to it because it seems to me to present a good, realistic flavor of how difficult it was to be a gay man before the sexual and cultural revolution of the last forty years.

The writing gripped me from the beginning, with initial scene of a resistance fighter (and wolf shifter) on the run from German-aligned French “soldiers” (Milice militia-like policemen, I assume).  The author’s slight tweaks on typical shifter paradigms, including significant but not complete healing from injuries, also signified this would not be a typical shifter tale. The strength of the work, however, had little to do with the paranormal aspects, but the struggles of two injured men trying to survive in an extremely hostile world, and both doing at least a bit of their part towards a better future.

The romantic connection might be considered rather flat compared to many entries in this genre, but to me the whole story was a slow, steady, and very palpable building of an intimate connection, even if it was deeply internalized and not apparent to others (or even themselves).  Actually, this slow, internal build seemed to ring very true for those who had to live extremely closeted life.

Recommended for fans of: Stories of gay men trying to survive in an extremely hostile, homophobic environment; World War II/French resistance settings.

Heat: fire  –  There was one, brief semi-explicit and somewhat euphemistic oral encounter, and a couple of fade to black moments.
Passion: heart heart  –  The chemistry of the characters was low-key but slowly builds to something very palpable to me. (Others might find the intimate connection to be bland, but it reverberated to me as how gay men needed to express themselves before the sexual and LGBT revolution)
Genre:  Romance

Other Comments:

The story indicated the pursuers were French soldiers, but by 1944 I believe the remnants of the Vichy French Army had been dissolved, and in any case had been restricted to the Vichy controlled area.  In its place, a French fascist militia-like police force had been raised, and operated in all of occupied France, including the Vosges Mountains where this story is set. The only true soldiers in this area would have been German units (including possibly German SS units that included French  volunteers, but they wouldn’t be considered fighting for France per se).  I’ve always heard the Milice referred to as police and not soldiers, but their militia-style uniforms certainly had a military appearance, so I assume the “French  soldiers” were actually Milice police (militiamen).

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